Great American Music Hall
October 27, 2016
Thursday night the Great American Music Hall was exploding with fresh faces in modern music. Along with the burgeoning young bands also came loads of fresh faced music fans to sellout GAMH for an all-ages show featuring the ascending star of K.Flay.
K.Flay (Kristine Flaherty) is a Bay Area transplant, finding her way west from Illinois to pursue higher education at Stanford. Little did she know that higher education for her would be spelled M-U-S-I-C, and would eventually land her alongside the likes of Santigold, Snoop Dogg, and Awolnation, be it on stage or recording.
Quite an amazing trick for someone who started in the music game on a lark as she challenged herself to self-produce songs similar to those she would hear on the radio or in clubs. Using quick-witted humor as a vehicle for her rhymes, K.Flay suddenly found that she was quite adept at writing songs that took a different twist on hip hop/alternative music.
Infusing intelligence and heaps of sarcasm in her story-telling delivery, she is in a way a throwback to the old school hip hop of the Beastie Boys and DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. However she twists those influences by taking full advantage of modern production skills to create bumping electronica beats that give her songs an irresistible rolling bounce. The mix settles into a niche that is forward leaning hip hop but with a very unpretentious lo-fi, indie sensibility.
When she strolled out onto the stage K.Flay could have been any one of the girls in the crowd that came to see her exude her ‘girl power’ vibe. Image wise, she is the antithesis of hip hop. No bling, no obnoxious attitude, no overtly sexual overtones, no cheap costumes to try to mask limited talent.
Wearing a white t-shirt and ripped jeans, she blasted into “Hail Mary” and floated around the stage as if on skates. Effortlessly spitting seemingly nonsensical rhymes with a lazy drawl that compels you to double think them (“Told a joke cause my life’s one too….anybody know where I might buy glue”), K.Flay has a delivery that suggests that maybe somewhere in her musical collection sits a Luscious Jackson CD that she wore out as a kid.
Her scattershot vocal style touches on Eminem and more contemporary peers like Macklemore and Yo-Landi (Die Antwoord), and K.Flay put it on full display on “So Fast, So Maybe.” She turned it up even more on the hypnotic jam “Can’t Sleep” (Life As A Dog – 2014), which sounds as if Twenty One Pilots could have bit the flow for ‘Heathens’.
And she can play a little too, taking turns on the synthesizer, guitar, and bass. Her churning bass line driving “Hollywood Forever” is the foundation upon which the dynamics of the song are built. Live drums triggering electronic sounds and droning layers of guitars are then piled on top of each other to build a NIN type of soundscape. The crowd, largely made up of twenty something females, reveled in it all. As the set pushed on, her rabid and rapidly growing fan base trance danced and mouthed the lyrics that were coming out of her mouth. All the while her two band mates continued to layer thick pulsing beats behind her.
K.Flay’s defiant attitude comes through like the character Olive (Emma Stone) in the movie Easy A and during her fabulous set that was never more apparent than in the dreamy spoken word groove ‘FML’, a single released this year that boldly proclaims “Fuck My Life, I love my life…..And I can’t be bothered to attempt to change, In no way”. Her fans just lost it. How could she top that? Well she did, by immediately starting into the absolutely addictive single on her recent EP release Crush Me called “Blood in the Cut.” Live 105 has the song in heavy rotation and it is quickly becoming the hit for K.Flay that will propel her nationally and beyond.
Closing out the set with “Blood in the Cut” raised the roof of GAMH and despite the fact that she came back out for an encore, it was the crown jewel of the evening turning the floor into a sea of jumping fans with raised arms. After the encore concluded, all that was left was to negotiate the post-show line (over 100 deep) of fans waiting to meet K.Flay at the merch table.
Playing before K.Flay was the alternative/pop band Nightly. Though they played capably, there was no ‘it’ factor evident to separate them from the other bands of their ilk. Notable in their set was the song “XO” which capitalizes on a catchy beat and keyboard hook, but did not pack the energy that was present with K.Flay or the night’s opener Layne.
And Layne’s set kicked things off in high gear. A good-sized crowd already packed the hall due to K. Flay’s sellout, and quickly lost the “waiting blues” when Layne started up. It’s not clear if “Layne” refers to just vocalist/guitarist Layne Putnam, to the foursome that was on stage, or to Putnam and drummer Alexander Rosca who appears in most of the photos with Putnam. Whoever makes up Layne, the driven performance of the band, both visual and musical, got everyone dancing on the floor and warmed up for K. Flay.
Layne’s music fits fairly neatly into the “indie pop” category while adding in a strong rock feel to the instrumental breaks. The band is tight and talented, its rock feel coming from Putnam and Rosca along with guitarist Zach Meller and bassist Justus Dixon. Unlike so many bands working in a pop vein, the live instruments and guitar-driven sound step the band in front of most radio play. It’s tough seeing a band for the first time and catching all the lyrics, Layne’s songs are said to be “dark” and “personal,” which has to be taken for granted here. Next time around, everyone will know the words and sing along.
Setlist: Hail Mary | So Fast, So Maybe | Can’t Sleep | Dreamers | Hollywood Forever | Make Me Fade | Wishing It Was You | You Felt Right | FML | Get It Right | The Cops | Thicker Than Dust | Blood in the Cut || Tur
For more information about K. Flay, check out her website.
Find out more about Nightly here.
Setlist: Intro | Somebody | Boys Do | Bunz Out | Let Me Know | Topica | Good
Check out Layne on Facebook.